Diamond Hill is magical. You can see it just about everywhere in Letterfrack, looming over the village with a watchful, ancient eye. And last summer, while traveling through Galway, we decided to hike its peak.
The hill lies just inside of Connemara National Park and, like most trails in Ireland, it's well maintained by volunteers; the path is made of heavy stones, making the hike pretty easy and keeping your shoes relatively dry. After a few steep bits just before reaching the top, you'll find a nice viewing and rest area—a good place to stop and take some pictures of the sea. Hiking at a casual pace, stopping for pictures and to soak in the grandiose views, it took us (my husband Neil and myself) about three hours, but you could reasonably jog the trail in about an hour. Diamond Hill is only an introduction to the vast wonderland of Connemara, a place where you could easily get lost in another world for days, and where you just might find yourself in the company of good people.
i wanted to give you the exact address of the visitors' center where we started the hike. So i went to the Connemara National Park official website, but i didn't see it anywhere... then Neil said over my shoulder, "Oh, it's right there on the front page. It's Ireland, dude." The address for the visitors' center is "Connemara National Park, Letterfrack, Co. Galway." That's all. No street number, no zip code.
Photography by Akiko Seki of old blue crow.
Above: The visitors' center, at the head of the trail, is well worth a stop. It features an art gallery, a cafe for a good cup of tea, and a small museum dedicated to the wild lands of Connemara, where you can learn about the bog and the flora and fauna of the park. The center used to serve as a children's school and just next to the building, hidden in the woods a bit, is a children's graveyard with some interesting, but troubled history. It's spooky at night, so visit on your way up the trail.
Above: We started the hike late in the evening because Neil knew that a flock of wild sheep and a tribe of wild goats would be there.
Above: The sun was already going down. What I thought were clusters of sheep's wool were actually bog cotton plants illuminated by the evening sun and waving in the breeze.
Above: Looking down the steep hillside, we saw a family of wild sheep; all with bushy hair, big horns, and a wild look in their eyes.
Above: We rested for a while at the top of the hill. The view from there is indescribable. Glorious orange sunshine, a picturesque village at the bottom of the hill, and countless small islands floating in the misty distance.
Above: The shade cast by the hill was perfectly triangular.
Above: The view into the park is a great place to catch rainbows and sun flares.
Above: As we hiked up the hill, we started to hear a strange sound coming from deep in the park and then realized the sound was getting closer. Heading down the hill, we stumbled upon a big tribe of wild goats crossing the hiking trail a little farther down from us.
Above: Here is a map of the hike around Diamond Hill: "A" marks the start of our hike, "B" the crest of the mountain, "C" is where we found the herd of wild goats, and "D" is the best place to end the hike during sunset. To find a similar map, you can Google "Connemara National Park, Letterfrack, Co. Galway."
Above: After the sunset (Ireland's summer sun doesn't set until well past nine o'clock), it was such a quiet night without anyone around us; all we could hear was the sound of birds in the distance.